||* d u l c e *||

Author Notes: Sadly, yes. This is another of Rhea's attempts at an alternate universe fan fiction. I'm passing on the dark, angst, and dramatic categories. I think, for the most part, I wanted this to come out sappy with a little bit of humor, though I don't think the humor is very well done. *sweatdrop* I've never really tried. I don't know. Actually maybe this fic is just general romance.

And yes, this is a Kurama/Botan fic. Don't like it? Then too bad! I have just been reintroduced and there's no way I'm going back, baby. Boy, does it feel like a long time since I've written anything KB'ish. At any rate, I hope you enjoy and reviews, flames, suggestions, and random comments are welcome. ^-^!!

**

"Happy birthday, Botan!"

The blue-haired girl extended her arm to accept the silver-wrapped package from the brunette.

"Thanks a bunch, Kei."

"It's no prob. I mean, it's my job as a friend to you make you feel special on your birthday."

With a smile on her face, Botan carefully peeled off the tape and unwrapped the gift-wrapper to reveal a small box containing a silver cross pendant.

"Gosh! It's really pretty! I love it. Thanks again, Kei."

"Oh stop. You're flattering me. Speaking of flattery, Yuusuke and Kuwabara told me to apologize for not being able to make it today. Unfortunately, they had to go to work. Looks like they've been skipping that too, among other things. Their boss is this close to firing the both of them."

She put her thumb and index finger close together to demonstrate her point.

"They couldn't afford to miss another day."

Botan laughed. "That's typical. You can't expect anything more than that from those two."

"No, I suppose you can't. But they didn't forget your birthday. Besides the apology, they told me to give this to you."

Rummaging behind the counter, she pulled out one large box that was messily wrapped and a smaller box that was a little tidier.

"The big one's from Kuwabara and the smaller one's from Yuusuke. Yuusuke's would have looked exactly like Kuwabara's but I helped him wrap it." She shrugged. "The sight of him struggling to wrap a small box was pitiful."

Botan laughed at the brunette's comment and smiled.

"I guess some things just never change. Especially Yuusuke and Kuwabara."

Keiko returned her smile and nodded. "Couldn't agree with you more."

Botan carefully opened the large gift in the same careful fashion as she had done with Keiko's gift, though it didn't really matter by the way that it already looked. Upon seeing the gift, she could only shake her head in amusement and placed it aside.

"How long did it take Kuwabara to pick this one out?"

"A long time. Yuusuke and I practically had to drag him out of the store. He couldn't decide. He said you were a horrible person to shop for."

"I take offense to that," she replied dryly.

Keiko laughed. "He tried, he really did. Do you like it?"

Botan nodded. "Yeah. It's actually Yukiru's one album I don't have yet."

"Good. Now you can open Yuusuke's gift."

Smiling she said, "Well, you seem more excited than I do. Why don't you open it?"

"Sorry. I just wanna see your reaction."

"I was just joking, Kei."

After finally getting the wrapping undone, she poured the contents onto the table and in front of her eyes were various hair accessories and a little folded up note. Unfolding the tiny piece of paper, she read:

Hey, Botan. Happy Birthday. Sorry I couldn't be there for your birthday so I trusted Keiko to give my gift to you. It's hair accessories, courtesy of Keiko. I didn't know what to get you and it was driving me nuts. You're a really hard person to shop for you know that? Anyway, I hope you like it. If not, you can go yell at Keiko. ^_^ She picked it out. Just kidding. Besides, the constant ponytail is getting on my nerves. Okay, later then. ~ Yuusuke

Botan smiled and placed the paper and scattered hairpieces in a small pink shopping bag along with the other gifts.

"So, do you like?"

Botan looked up to see Keiko's smiling face behind the counter.

"Yeah. Thanks a lot. You guys are the best."

"Yeah, we know." Keiko put a proud air about her, resulting in Botan wrinkling her nose.

"Well, looks like I gotta go. I have a panda suit to report to."

"Good luck. It's pretty hot out today, you know."

"Yeah, but that panda suit is money. And a girl can't live if she doesn't have pocket money with her."

"You're right. Well, have a good time then. I'll see you tomorrow, kay?"

"Yeah, and thanks for the noodles, Keiko. Thank your parents for me too."

"Sure. Oh and before I forget, Yukina told me to tell you that she'd greet you and give you your present next week at school. She's got a busy schedule too."

"Doesn't everyone?" Botan rolled her eyes good-naturedly and picked up the shopping bag. "And what are you now? The messenger for everyone?"

"Yeah. I'm pretty ticked off too."

Both girls just laughed before the sound of a bell tinkling indicated that Botan had opened the main door to the ramen shop. Waving goodbye to her friend, Botan stepped outside and began her walk to Ichigou Niwa, the park at the center of the city where she worked.

**

Botan walked around the park in her panda suit, holding a handful of balloons and handing one to every child that tugged on her costume and pointed at one of the balloons with a smile. She liked her job; she liked to see the children smile with happiness as she handed them one of the helium-infused, colored balloons. She would have been in a wonderful mood, as usual, but today just wasn't her day, and of all days it just had to be her birthday.

Her parents had jobs abroad and even if they could have taken her with them, it would have all been the same for they would never be home anyway. So they had decided that it be best if she just stayed in the environment that she had been born in and stay with the friends she grew up with. 

Then there were her friends. Oh, such a wonderful group of people whom she could not have survived in the world if it were not for them. But today, on her birthday, they, too, could not be there with her.

Sure, her friends got her gifts, but they weren't really there, excluding Keiko who was with her. But that was expected. Keiko had been her best friend since elementary school, and neither of them had ever failed the other. She was grateful that her friends remembered, but she couldn't help but feel a tinge of bitterness at the thought that she had to spend it almost alone.

And then there was her employer. He knew full well that today was her birthday, but he had implored her to come to work today because he needed everyone of his employees to be there because of the festival being held. He knew that what he was asking was rather selfish, but he looked sorry enough. Plus, Botan could never decline someone's begging. It was just too pitiful of a sight. There were many people that were to be there and he could not fail them. Yes, business always came first, didn't it? Botan smiled wryly at the thought and continued to walk around the park.

To top it all off, the heat was unbearable. It was already rather warm without the thick, fuzzy costume, but being inside of it together with the heat almost made her feel nauseated. Nevertheless, she strode around the park doing her job handing out balloons and making the children happy.

It wasn't long before she happened upon a little boy crying in the middle of the park, and no one seemed to pay too much attention. Worried, Botan hurriedly hobbled over to the boy and took off the head portion of her panda costume and squatted down to be level with the boy's eyes.

"What's wrong, hon? Are you lost?"

The little boy stopped crying at the sound of the girl's sweet voice and looked up. Not saying a word, he only nodded and sniffed some more.

"Aww. Here, we'll go and find your mom, okay?"

The boy nodded once more and wiped at his face with the back of his hands.

Botan pulled out a handkerchief from a small pocket on the side of the costume and tried to wipe at the young one's face.

"Here. Why don't we get you cleaned up first, okay?"

Taking the handkerchief, she set to work wiping at the boy's tear-stained face when, out of nowhere, a small golden pup came running in their direction and stopped right between the two. Wagging its tail and barking cheerfully, he looked up at Botan.

"Oh, don't tell me you're lost too."

The pup just barked and began prancing about the little boy, eliciting small giggles from him.

"Shingo!" a male voice called out.

The pup continued to bark and began to get more excited, running here and there when the male voice rang out again. Botan looked about her to find where the person was coming from, and surely, a red-haired youth turned the corner and called out once more.

"Shingo!"

The pup pranced its way to the tall boy, made a small circle around his legs, and dashed back to Botan and the smaller boy, barking excitedly all the while. Botan looked up at the newcomer and was met with a tall lean figure of a boy with crimson locks and deep emerald-green eyes. Finally realizing she was staring, she abruptly looked away, a faint blush creeping onto her peachy skin.

"Shingo. Here, boy."

The pup only wagged its tail and pranced about, a goofy look on his face before jumping into the little boy's arms. The child looked down at the golden puff in his arms and broke into laughter.

"Is he your dog, mister?"

The taller boy raised one eyebrow at the boy and nodded. Seeing his swollen eyes, he turned his head to look at the girl.

"Lost?"

"Huh?" Botan looked up. "Oh. Yeah. We were just going to look for his mom."

"Yeah. A lot of kids have gotten lost today. The park's packed."

Looking at the child and his pup, he shrugged. "I have a whole hour to kill, so I guess I'll help you look for his mom too. I mean," he pointed at the boy and his dog, and Botan instantly got the hint.

They had been walking for some time when the lost boy had declared that he was tired, and so the taller boy took him in his arms and offered him a ride on his shoulders to which the little boy accepted with glee. Out of the boy's arms, the pup took his position in Botan's arms.

"What's with the costume?"

Botan was caught off guard at the sudden question for not very many words were exchanged between the two teenagers. It had gotten to the point of unbearable awkwardness that Botan decided to walk ahead of the red-haired boy instead of beside him.

"I work here. It's my job to wear this suit," she replied, not turning her head to look back.

"Aren't you hot?"

"Yeah."

"And it doesn't bother you?"

"A little bit, I guess. But since it's my job and it pays me cash, I can't really complain." She looked back and gave him a sheepish smile. "So why are you here today?"

"I have a show."

"Oh, so you're one of the performers, huh?"

Shuuichi turned his face to the side and gave a quick response of yes.

"You don't seem too happy about it."

"Performing. It's the same routine every day."

Their conversation would have continued if it were not for the little boy on the redhead's shoulder crying out to his mother. Apparently, being in a higher position, he was able to get a better look around the park and spotted his mother.

"Mommy!" The boy waved from his spot on the teenager's shoulders. "I'm over here."

A woman with short, golden tresses came running up to the three of them, crying out in grateful hysterics.

"Thank gods! Thank gods!"

The taller boy hoisted the younger boy down onto the ground and he ran to his mother's open arms. After embracing her child, she looked at the two teenagers, who were smiling at the heart-warming little scene.

"I'll assume you found my little boy."

"Yup," came Botan's reply.

"I hope he wasn't any trouble."

"No, he was absolutely well-mannered."

"Oh, I can't thank you enough." She bowed down and averted her gaze to her son. "Aren't you going to thank these nice young people, Shiyoji?"

The boy nodded and faced the two teenagers, bowing with the grace that only a child could pull off.

"It's no problem, Shiyoji." Botan bent down and patted the boy on the head. "The next time you come to the park with your mom, you come and find me, okay?"

"Yeah!"

"Thank you again." Shiyoji's mother smiled gratefully at the two before taking hold of her son's hand and walking in the opposite direction.

Botan watched the two stroll off for some time, a smile playing on her lips. It was the sudden sound of barking from her arms that brought her back to earth and upon looking down, she saw the golden pup with large eyes looking up at her.

"Ah, Shingo. I guess you want to return to your owner now, huh?"

She turned around to face the red-haired lad, whom she had never formally gotten the name of, and frowned.

"Are you always so silent and immobile? You've been in that same position since we got here."

"I do what I want," he scoffed.

The crease in Botan's forehead deepened as she handed back the pup.

"Okay, we've found the boy's mother, and here's your pup. You can go back and do whatever it was that you were originally doing, and I'll gladly get back to my job."

She handed the golden fur-ball over to the boy and with her other hand, proceeded to put the head portion of her costume back on when his voice interrupted her from her forth-coming action.

"Hey, do you wanna come to my show?"

"Show?" Botan lifted an eyebrow in question.

"Yeah. I'm one of the performers for today's events, remember?" He looked down at his wristwatch. "I have another ten minutes before I have to get back to the center of the park."

"I dunno," she answered skeptically, "I have work to do."

"Whatever, but you don't know what you're missing." He shot her a smirk.

Brows furrowing deeper, she let out a sigh. "Okay, I'll go. I have break for half an hour anyway."

Setting the pup on the ground for it to follow, the boy began walking with Botan following behind.

"My name's Botan by the way."

"Hmm, Botan. That's a nice name."

Blushing, she curled her fingers round the fur of the head of the panda, and began in a stutter. "Um, so what's your name? I never did get it."

"Shuuichi, but most of my fans call me Kurama."

"Ah, the picture is clearer now. So you're the Kurama, famous teenage idol singer. I've heard a lot about you, but I've never had the honors of seeing your appearance."

"Well, that's the first. To tell you the truth, I was a little surprised that you didn't swoon when you saw me earlier."

"I'm not like other girls, you know," Botan replied sourly.

Shuuichi shrugged. "I could tell."

And the two continued to stroll along the winding concrete of the park to the center where the performing booths were set up, the audience, consisting mostly of teenage girls, were waiting almost impatiently.

They continued their small talk, and on most occasions, Shuuichi managed to say something that bothered Botan, but she always let it slip, inwardly reminding herself that he was a star after all. A lot of the fan worship must have gone to his head or something.

**

"Sugoi yo!! Kurama, you're such a babe!!!"

"Kurama, you're so hot!!"

Botan rolled her eyes as the repetitive remarks from the fan-girls in the audience reached her ears. She had to admit that Shuuichi was handsome and a very talented singer, and it was no wonder that many girls admired him for it, but did they have to go to all ends to profess their love for him when he could hardly tell which comments came from whom?

Botan swore that she had probably contracted deafness from the last fifteen minutes of standing in the midst of these screaming girls. And to make it worse, she had been pushed and shoved and nearly trampled on. These girls were violent; they'd do anything to get as near to Kurama as they could.

It wasn't long after before she felt dizziness wash over her and the world turned dark.

**

Final Notes: Sorry to cut this chapter short, but I figure this is a good place to end it. I'm not going to ramble very much because I'm in the middle of doing my Trig and English homework. I really don't know why I haven't already burnt my math book. Stupid numbers! @.@

I know. There's not much Kurama and Botan anything, but hey! It's only the first chapter. Work with me here, people. I promise that by the second chapter, there will be at least something, and that should be out…um tomorrow. Hehe, it's written already, just have to fix up a couple of things.

Yeah, yeah. For those of you that actually read "Broken", I really do have the first chapter written, it's just that I just realized that I didn't like the way it came out so I'm rewriting it. *sigh* I'm not even sure I want to post it up. *sweatdrop* We'll see. Whatever.

Okay, and finally standard disclaimers apply. All YYH characters belong to Togashi Yoshihiro-sama although I would gladly cough up big money to own Hiei! ^-^!! Too bad I don't have that kind of cash. *sweatdrop* And of course, any other characters portrayed in here that is not of YYH origin belong to me, including Shingo, the dog.